Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


A fast-paced novel of conjecture and surprises



core definition

Cinema is a manipulation of reality through image and sound using cinematography, which is the illusion of movement by the recording and subsequent rapid projection of many still photographic pictures on a screen. 

explanatory context


Cinema, or motion picture, is regardd as the art of moving images. It is seen as a visual medium that tells stories be they fictitious or .recordings of actual events.


Cinematic apparatus

Cinematic apparatus refers to all the components of cinema, from film production, through distribution and exhibition. It encompasses the filmic text as well as the institutional conditions of a film's existence. It is the product of the economic and ideological conditions of existence of cinema at any moment in history.


Cinematic specificity

Cinematic specificity refers to elements of signification that operate only in the language of cinema, i.e. are specific to cinematic film.


Deconstructive cinema

Deconstructive cinema works by breaking down the modes of signification characteristic of dominant cinema.


Direct cinema

Direct cinema is a style of documentary film making which minimises the manipulation of the appearance and ordering of what is being filmed (the profilmic event). Direct cinema was developed in the United States in the 1960s and is dependent on lightweight mobile film equipment.


Dominant cinema

Dominant cinema is the combination of institutional conditions of production, distribution and exhibition of films for world-wide mass markets. Dominat cinema has functioned as a major mass communications medium. Dominant cinema has a distinct set of textual characteristics associated with the classic realist text. The blockbuster Hollywood movie is an example form of dominant cinema. See CASE STUDY Women's Pictures for an exploration of dominant cinema


New women's cinema


Socialist realist cinema


analytical review

National Science and Media Museum (2011):

Cinematography is the illusion of movement by the recording and subsequent rapid projection of many still photographic pictures on a screen. A product of 19th century scientific endeavour, it has over the previous hundred years or so become an industry employing many thousands of people and a medium of mass entertainment and communication. No one person invented cinema...The first to present projected moving pictures to a paying audience (i.e. cinema) were the Lumière brothers in December 1895 in Paris.

At first, films were very short, sometimes only a few minutes or less. They were shown at fairgrounds and music halls ....although they did not have synchronized dialogue they were not ‘silent’ as they are sometimes described.

By 1914, several national film industries were established. Europe, Russia and Scandinavia were as important as America. Films became longer, and storytelling, or narrative, became the dominant form. As more people paid to see movies, the industry which grew around them was prepared to invest more money in their production, distribution and exhibition, so large studios were established and special cinemas built. The First World War greatly retarded the film industry in Europe, and the American industry grew in relative importance.

The first thirty years of cinema were characterized by the growth and consolidation of an industrial base, the establishment of the narrative form and refinement of technology. Colour was first added to black-and-white movies through tinting, toning and stencilling. By 1906, the principles of colour separation were used to produce so-called ‘natural colour’ moving images with the British Kinemacolor process, first presented to the public in 1909. The early Technicolor processes from 1915 onwards were cumbersome and expensive, and colour was not used more widely until the introduction of its three-colour process in 1932.

The first attempts to add synchronized sound to projected pictures used phonographic cylinders or discs. The first feature-length movie incorporating synchronized dialogue, The Jazz Singer (USA/1927), used the Warner Brothers’ Vitaphone system which employed a separate record disc with each reel of film for the sound. This system proved unreliable and was soon replaced by an optical, variable density soundtrack recorded photographically along the edge of the film.

By the early 1930s, nearly all feature-length movies were presented with synchronized sound and, by the mid-1930s, some were in full colour too. The advent of sound secured the dominant role of the American industry and gave rise to the so-called ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’. During the 1930s and 1940s, cinema was the principal form of popular entertainment, with people often attending cinemas twice weekly. In Britain the highest attendances occurred in 1946, with over 31 million visits to the cinema each week....

35mm film...was adopted as the industry standard. The picture had a height-to-width relationship, known as the aspect ratio, of 3:4 or 1:1.33. With the advent of optical sound the aspect ratio was adjusted to 1.37:1....

The introduction of television in America prompted a number of technical experiments designed to maintain public interest in cinema. In 1952, the Cinerama process, using three projectors and a wide, deeply curved screen together with multi-track surround sound, was premiered. ...However, it was technically cumbersome and widescreen cinema did not begin to be extensively used until the introduction of CinemaScope in 1953 and Todd-AO in 1955, both of which used single projectors. .... By the end of the 1950s, the shape of the cinema screen had effectively changed, with aspect ratios of either 1:2.35 or 1:1.66 becoming standard.

Specialist large-screen systems using 70mm film have also been developed. The most successful of these has been IMAX...For many years IMAX cinemas have showed films specially made in its unique 2-D or 3-D formats but they are increasingly showing versions of popular feature films which have been digitally re-mastered in the IMAX format, often with additional scenes or 3D effects.

Stereo sound, which had been experimented with in the 1940s, also became part of the new widescreen experience.

associated issues


related areas

See also

Socialist realism

Researching the Real World: CASE STUDY Women's Pictures


National Science and Media Museum, 2011, 'A very short history of cinema', available at, accessed 24 May 2017, still available 26 November 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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